Monday Morning Critic – 3.9

On tap this week:
— A Christian Bale funny
— Watching the Watchmen
— Ang Lee delves into porn
And slightly much more!

When The Prestige came out, I was excited. The trailers were top shelf and I’m a big fan of Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale, plus it had Michael Caine in it. At this juncture I had yet to hear Bale in his real accent, not his American accent. Everything I had seen him in, including the publicity for Batman Begins, he used it so I presumed he was from America. Or Canada, at least. When a guy does publicity in an American voice you assume he’s an American.

So I see it, it rocked hard, and I get back to my apartment. Travis is on AIM at the moment and we have the following exchange:

Me: Dude, you have to see The Prestige. Such a great flick.
Travis: Probably tomorrow night.
Me: The screwy thing is that Christian Bale has like the best Irish accent.
Travis: He’s from Wales, you know.
Me: No he’s not. He’s from like Minnesota, or Canada at the worse.
Travis: He’s from Wales.

(10 minutes elapse as I go to and figure out that yes, Christian Bale is from Wales)

Me: You suck.
Travis: Ha ha, I win.

Times like this make me wonder that basic fact checking and research is a pair of skills that kept me out of the good colleges.

Random Thoughts of the Week

So I saw Watchmen this weekend, very good film, but it’s amusing to hear people who have actually read the graphic novel discuss it. I’m not one of them, as I have yet to read it (and probably won’t anytime in the near future), so it’s an interesting experience to say the least. For the record I would’ve given it about 4.5 buckets on our five bucket scale, as it was great but not quite a masterpiece on first viewing. I’ll probably end up seeing again this week, because it’s good enough to see again.

But the thing that kept bothering me is that people seemingly refuse to look at the film as a product in and of itself. And it’s not just with Watchmen; seemingly every film that has been made from a TV show, book, whatever, is always judged based on its fidelity to its original as opposed to its own merits. It kind of bugs me, honestly.

Going into Watchmen without knowing anything about it made for an experience, but I can see the how and why that being a fan of the graphic novel would dictate your behavior. It’s something you love and cherish and seeing the awesomeness that Zach Snyder made will give you feelings one way or the other. I get that. It’s something you read and hence you want that version on the screen. But I would argue that it’s not a matter of tone or direction. It’s a matter of how it makes you feel.

And I can imagine someone who was 13 years old when Watchmen came out, and how revolutionary it was for the time, that it would be hard to see something you know and love on the screen interpreted by someone else. The feeling you got when you opened the comic book issue by issue was a feeling that can’t be replicated on the big screen. So no matter happens on the big screen, you can’t replicate that feeling you got when you read everything as it played out. Disappointment is going to happen no matter what.

I’ve always thought that the one way you should view a movie is to view it outside of the source material. I love the book “Wiseguy” by Nicholas Pileggi, which was the book adapted into Goodfellas, but I separate the two. They’re independent and no movie can recreate the excitement of reading it but no book can replicate the sheer awesomeness that reading the book for the first time had to me.

So if your disappointed with Watchmen the film, you shouldn’t be if the reason is solely because “it’s not like the book.” You got the best possible version of it that didn’t last seven hours. Judge it on its merits as a film.

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

This Week’s Film – Lust, Caution


Ang Lee’s followup to Oscar winning Brokeback Mountain didn’t get much publicity or a wide showing in theatres. Why? Because of its graphic sex content, which for most films would be a selling point but in this case it isn’t.

The film focuses on a group of Chinese students trying to help during the Chinese resistance of the Japanese occupation of China during World War II. When they send in the beautiful woman of their group Wong Chia Chi (Tang Wei) to seduce Mr. Yee (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai of Hard Boiled and Infernal Affairs fame) and set him up for an eventual strike. The film is a flashback from the initial coded words Wong speaks to a friend to set up the hit, showing her eventual involvement with Yee as devised as their great plan to help the resistance. But problems arise for her when she falls in love with him during her undercover mission.

It’s a great character study and a great thriller, but the film has some markedly graphic sex scenes. This isn’t the typical Hollywood love scene, cut meticulously. There is nothing implied or hinted at with Lee’s story. This is like porn-level, without seeing any of the naughty bits but leaving nothing to be implied. You know that moment in The Forty Year Old Virgin when Andy abjectly looks at the screen and goes “this is graphic” when in Beth’s apartment? That’s what you’ll be saying to no one in particular for about 20 minutes of this movie.

That’s the part of the film that got it the NC-17 it deserves. It’s a tight thriller for the rest of it, and definitely worth the watch.

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 Pints of Bass Ale and gyrating Northwestern University Co-Eds with low standards at The Keg

The Last House on the Left (2009) – A remake of the seminal 1972 horror classic. Some girls go to a concert, get kidnapped by degenerates, then one of their fathers unleashes unholy vengeance on them.

Skip it – I swear every week there’s a remake of either a foreign horror film or a classic of the genre.

Race to Witch Mountain – A remake of Escape to Witch Mountain, with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as a cab driver trying to get two alien kids back to their spaceship.

See it – The Rock has had a knack for picking solid projects as of late and this looks like it could be a solid action flick.

Miss March – A guy slips, falls and winds up in a coma. His girlfriend becomes a Playboy centerfield. So now he and his buddy have one mission: find her at the Playboy mansion.

See it – Sure it has the R rating, but this film has “awful” written all over it. Though I imagine there’s going to be a TON of quality female nudity, so that might be worth it in and of itself.

Sunshine Cleaning – Amy Adams decides to open up her own crime scene cleanup company with her sister (Emily Blunt) and her father (Alan Arkin).

See it – I actually HAVE seen this film and can say it’s really good. I saw it at the famed Lake Street Screening Room in Chicago a couple weeks ago. Amy Adams makes any film better and she’s now on the short list of people who’s movies I will see opening weekend.

Do you have questions about movies, life, love, or Branigan’s Law? Shoot me an e-mail at and you could be featured in the next “Monday Morning Critic.” Include your name and hometown to improve your odds..

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